San Lawrenz mayor and Qala deputy barred from contesting ALC elections ‘to maintain status quo’

Labour sources confirmed that PN leader Adrian Delia and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, in their first meeting earlier this week, agreed to maintain the status quo in the Association of Local Councils

Paul Cocks
1 October 2017, 7:30am
Jesmond Borg, deputy mayor of Qala (left) and Noel Formosa, mayor of San Lawrenz (right) were barred from contesting the ALC election by their parties paving the way for the election of Sam Azzopardi (centre)
Jesmond Borg, deputy mayor of Qala (left) and Noel Formosa, mayor of San Lawrenz (right) were barred from contesting the ALC election by their parties paving the way for the election of Sam Azzopardi (centre)
The Nationalist mayor of San Lawrenz and the Labour deputy mayor of Qala were among councillors dissuaded from contesting the election for the Association of Local Councils, following a ‘backroom deal’ between the party leaders to field just enough candidates for the ALC committee to be formed, without being contested, MaltaToday has learned.

Labour will now retain its one-seat majority with five members.

Sources close to the PN have confirmed that Noel Formosa, PN mayor of San Lawrenz, wanted to contest the ALC election to become the Gozo region representative on the committee.

Adrian Delia called him for a meeting at the PN HQ in Pieta’ where, instead, Formosa was confronted by Pierre Portelli, who is running Delia’s office as the de-facto chief-of-staff.

Portelli told Formosa in no unclear terms that there was no need for someone else to contest the election, since there was already Samuel Azzopardi contesting, the sources said.

Formosa was told the PN would not be fielding any more candidates and Azzopardi was in fact elected uncontested.

When contacted by MaltaToday, Formosa did not deny what happened but said he would prefer not to comment. A spokesman for the PN denied the reports, insisting that "No, Partit Nazzjonalista did not stop anyone from contesting".

Pierre Portelli told MaltaToday that he had met Formosa but that he had only done so "on a personal level", not representing the PN in any capacity.

He also denied that the party had favoured anyone - so much so, he said, that there had in fact been an internal election for the Gozo region representative that Azzopardi had won.

The election of the nine members of the ALC executive was originally scheduled for October 14. At the end of the three-day nomination period on Friday, the candidates were uncontested.

The executive committee is composed of a chairman, three members and five officials representing the south-east, south, centre, north and Gozo regions.

In a parallel case, sources in the Labour Party confirmed that Qala deputy mayor Jesmond Borg also wanted to contest the election, but was also told by the party not to.

Borg could not be reached for comment by the time we went to print.

PL sources confirmed that the issue was discussed at the meeting that Delia had with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat this week at the Labour headquarters, when the two agreed to maintain the status quo.

MPs who spoke to this newspaper met the news with consternation, saying both party administrations had dissuaded local councillors from putting their names forward.

MP Jason Azzopardi likened the political deal between the Nationalist and Labour parties on the composition of the local government association to match fixing.

The Nationalist MP, who has not held back from criticism of the PN’s new leader after having supported Chris Said, said yesterday he was “averse to backroom deals”.

“Dangerous precedent. I’m averse to backroom deals between ‘adversaries’. In sports terms, agreeing beforehand on a pre-arranged outcome of a game is illegal,” he wrote on his Facebook wall in reaction to a story appearing in the Times of Malta.

Azzopardi’s jibe was a direct reference to Adrian Delia’s recent past as a football club president before entering the political fray.

Local councillors who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity echoed Azzopardi’s sentiment. “The sentiment, they said, was especially palpable among councillors in both parties who were keen to contest the election but could not do so because of instructions from the higher echelons in view of the deal.”

The Nationalist Party had resorted to such a stratagem in 2012 when it presented the minimum number of candidates necessary in four localities for the local council elections of 10 March, in a bid to have all candidates elected automatically without the need of an election.

The same tactic was employed in 2005 when the PN actually withdrew candidates for the Marsa and Zejtun councils, leading to no election being held for the two councils.

Back in February 2005, the PN withdrew candidates Matthew Frendo, Manwel Saliba, Lawrence Grixti and Joseph Brownrigg on the last day of the nominations, meaning no elections would be held in the two Labour majorities of Marsa and Zejtun.

No competitive election need be held when the number of candidates equals the number of seats to be filled. The PN manoeuvre of withdrawing some of their candidates resulted in a Marsa council of six Labour and one PN councillor while Zejtun’s council would comprise eight Labour members and one PN councillor.

Paul Cocks joined MaltaToday after having spent years working in newspapers with The Times...